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How Do Predatory Journals End Up in PubMed?

Many of us regularly utilize scholarly databases to locate articles and assume that the journals the content is published in are reputable. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Journals that may have reputability concerns are typically referred to as predatory journals. A 2019 Nature article defines predatory journals as “entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.”

One of the main ways that these journals end up in PubMed is through research funded by various agencies, including NIH. Research that is federally funded comes with certain requirements to make content available to the public. The NIH public access policy requires researchers to submit final peer-reviewed manuscripts to PubMed Central (PMC). However, NIH does not control where articles are published. This means that if federally funded research is published in a predatory journal, that journal will end up in PMC. Since PubMed contains citations from MEDLINE, PMC, and the NCBI Bookshelf, this content can then end up in PubMed itself.

In 2017, NIH issued a Statement on Article Publication Resulting from NIH Funded Research, encouraging authors to publish their NIH-funded research in “reputable journals.” This does not solve the problem, but brings up the importance of making informed decisions, whether you are attempting to critically appraise someone else’s published research or are seeking a journal to publish your own research. Additionally, quality content could possibly be published in a predatory journal and retractions in larger, high-impact journals still occur.

For more information, Predatory Journals: What They Are and How to Avoid Them includes lists of characteristics of predatory journals, questions to ask to determine if a journal/publisher is predatory, and select resources that can be utilized to identify these journals. HSLS also offers a class titled, Evaluating Journals: Discovering Where to Publish, that will be scheduled again this fall.

For more information, please send an email to Ask A Librarian.

~Francesca Yates